At first, it can seem like such a simple task, all you have to do is open that glossy horse supply and tack catalog that is laying on the table and purchase a new Western saddle pad. No problem.
Just a few short seconds after opening the catalog you realize exactly how big a project you are about to undertake. Instead of opening the catalog and finding the one or two saddle pads, you expected you find your self facing page after page after page of saddle pads.
Each saddle pad has its own cut, material type, and function. The magazine offers a brief blurb on each pad but nothing that is really helpful.
The only thing that the blankets seem to have in common is the price…expensive.
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The first thing you need to consider is your budget.
The typical horse
person operates on a tight budget.
Every day they are confronted with a flood of bills that never seems to stop, feed bills, veterinarian bills, board bills, lesson bills, and miscellaneous bills.
It is tempting to purchase the cheapest saddle blanket the catalogue sells. Before you place that order you should stop and think.
When it comes to tacking, cheaper is typically not better.
Cheap saddle blankets tend to be so thin that they offer next to no cushioning, the flimsy material often bunches and can cause saddle sores if the owner is negligent when saddling.
Cheap blankets can slide while the owner is riding (this is especially true if your horse
is as round as a barrel). The advantage to cheap saddle blankets is that they are typically washing machine cleanable, but the downside is that they seldom last for more than a few cleanings.
The one time I recommend buying a really cheap Western saddle pad is when you are first saddling a young horse.
If cost is a major issue consider looking in the clearance sections of the catalogs and tack stores.
I’ve found that I typically find the best deals on saddle blankets when I’m not looking for one.
The second thing you need to take into consideration when you are looking for a Western saddle blanket is what type of saddle do you have.
Not all Western saddles are designed the same, there are saddles cut to fit specific breeds (Arabians and Quarter Horses
typically use a different saddle design), saddles that are designed for different purposes (a barrel racing saddle looks completely different from a saddle that a roper will be riding in).
The important thing to remember is that when the saddle pad is on, no part of the underside of the saddle should be touching the horses
It is important to consider your horse’s body type when you are purchasing a saddle blanket.
If you own a horse whose midsection resembles a barrel and their withers are nothing more then a distant memory (this is the typical body type of ponies) you will want to look for a saddle pad that is made of a material that is designed not to slip and slide all over the place.
If you are a rider that typically leans heavily on one side of your saddle you will also want to consider a non-slip saddle blanket. If your horse has prominent withers you will want to look for a saddle blanket that will add extra protection and padding in the front.
A swaybacked horse requires a saddle pad that will offer extra support everywhere, you’ll also want to look for a saddle pad that is thick enough you saddle will sit above the horse’s withers and hips.
Western saddle pads are not easy to clean. They are typically too stiff and cumbersome to fit in a washing machine and if you are able to cram them into your washing machine you will quickly learn that it can take several days before they are dry.
Once a Western saddle pad has been washed it typically doesn’t look the same again.
Most Western riders try to keep their saddle pads clean by placing a cheap Navajo rug under the think fluffy Western Blanket.